Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Colin Campbell, Lord Clyde
Chapter VI The Storming of Lucknow

Sir Colin Campbell had effected the relief of the Residency of Lucknow and the withdrawal of its garrison, and he was now free to devote himself to the strategic prosecution of the main campaign. Some delay had to he endured pending the return of the carriage which had conveyed the great convoy from Lucknow to the advanced base at Allahabad; hut the interval enabled him to concert the measures necessary for the restoration of British authority in the Gangetic Doab and the opening of communications with Agra and Delhi Greathed’s column on its descent from Delhi had already traversed this region through fire and blood; but the wave of rebellion had closed in upon its rear and obliterated every trace of its hurried progress. Campbell had now not merely to traverse but to subdue and occupy; and this was to be accomplished only by the methodised sweep through the length and breadth of the Doab of columns restoring, as they moved, the British authority, and expelling the numerous bands of mutineers. Sir Colin with a wise perception decided on the fort of Futtehghur as the objective point on wbich the columns to be employed should converge.

For various reasons the possession of this strong place, situated as it was on the Ganges about midway between Allahabad and Delhi, was of great strategical importance. It was close to the town of Furrukhabad, the Nawaub of which was a bitter rebel; and it covered the floating bridge on the Ganges at a point where the states of Oude and Rohilcund met, from which hostile territories the enemy were as yet free to enter the Doab and intercept the communication by the Grand Trunk Road with Agra, Delhi, and the Punjaub. His occupation of Futtehghur, on the other hand, would carry with it the command of the fourth side of the Doab; while Agra, Allahabad, and Delhi, whose respective positions dominated the other three, were already in British possession.

Sir Colin fully recognised the strong strategic temptation, before advancing up the Doab, to root out from Calpee the Gwalior Contingent which he had just defeated before Lucknow, and so secure his flank and communications. But he also realised that the Contingent had been so cowed and weakened by its recent overthrow that many weeks must elapse before it could rally sufficiently to venture on any serious offensive operation. The brigade left at Lucknow under the command of Inglis, Sir Colin judged amply sufficient to prevent the interruption of his rearward communications j and it was with no apprehensions on that score that he proceeded to carry out the details of his project for the subjugation of the Doab by a concentric movement on Futtehghur. Before the close of November Colonel Seaton had already left Delhi in command of a column of all arms about nineteen hundred strong, in charge of a vast convoy covering some seventeen miles of road, and comprising carts, camels and elephants laden with tents, stores and ammunition for the headquarter column. Marching down the Trunk Road and sweeping the upper Doab, Seaton was the victor in two successive sharp combats with insurgent bodies, and having reached Be war on December 31st he remained there until January 3rd, when he was joined by Brigadier Walpole. From that point the united force under Walpole was to move straight on Futtehghur, driving before it the rebel bands from the Delhi, Agra, and Etawah sections of the Doab.

Of the two columns marching up country, one commanded by Walpole the other by Sir Colin himself, the former had the greater distance to travel and was therefore the earlier to move out. On December 16th Walpole quitted Cawnpore with two thousand men consisting of two battalions of Rifles and a strong force of cavalry and artillery. Making a semicircular sweep to the left through the lower Doab in the direction of Calpee, a movement in the nature of a threatening demonstration against the Gwalior Contingent, he swung round to his right by Akbarpore and marched up the left bank of the Jumna to Etawah, whence he struck across to Mynpooree and, as has been said, joined Seaton at Bewar. On December 24th Sir Colin at the head of the main army some five thousand strong set out from Cawnpore, moving by easy marches up the Grand Trunk Road and clearing the right bank of the Ganges as he advanced. Thus three columns, from the north-west, from the south, and from the Bouth-east, were simultaneously moving to converge on Futtehghur, driving before them the malcontents of the Doab with intent to push them across the Ganges into Oude and Eohilcund.

No matter how careful may be the pre-arrangements for precision in the execution of a combined operation when the distances are wide, as often as not there interposes some complication which detracts from the fulfilment of the combination. Sir Colin had anticipated a simultaneous concentric advance on Futtehghur, but events forestalled this operation. On the 1st of January 1858 Brigadier Hope with two infantry regiments and some cavalry and artillery reached the point, about fifteen miles from Futtehghur, where the road crossed the Kala Nuddee stream by a fine suspension bridge, just in time to prevent its total destruction by the enemy who had torn up a great part of the planking. The engineers and sailors had already repaired the structure when in the early morning of the 2nd several rebel battalions of the Nawaub’s force under cover of a thick fog came down to dispute the passage of the river. When the fog lifted the enemy were seen to have occupied in great force the village of Khoodagunj, whence they opened a vigorous musketry-fire covered by several heavy guns, one of which, a 24-pounder, had been placed in the toll-house commanding the bridge. Sir Colin had come up and promptly made bis dispositions to meet the enemy’s rapidly developing attack. He sent back the order for the main body to hurry up; and meanwhile he pushed the Fifty-Third across the bridge to reinforce the pickets, with strict orders not to advance but to remain on the defensive so as to allow time for the cavalry, which had been sent across five miles up stream, to get behind the enemy and cut off his retreat to Futtehghur. One wing of the Ninety-Third was in reserve behind the bridge; the other with some horse-artillery guns was detached to hold a ford three miles down stream for the purpose of securing the right flank.

Feel sent an eight-inch shell through the window of the toll-house which burst under the enemy’s big gun in that building, upsetting it and killing or disabling most of the rebel gunners. Campbell’s main body came up, and under cover of a heavy artillery fire which soon silenced the hostile guns, the passage of the river was accomplished. The Fifty-Third regiment had been lying for hours under the bank of a road which afforded inadequate cover, and had lost a good many men. It was comprised chiefly of Irishmen,—fine stalwart fellows and ever keen for fighting, but somewhat difficult to keep in hand when their blood was up. When the main body began to cross, the Fifty-Third conceived the idea that they were to be relieved; and this suspicion, coupled with glimpses of the enemy attempting to withdraw some of their guns, overmastered their sense of discipline. All of a sudden, and in spite of the attempts to restrain them, they made a dash with loud cheers and charged and captured several of the rebel guns. Sir Colin had intended to make a waiting fight of it, to give plenty of time for the cavalry turning movement; when the hot-headed Irishmen interfered with this project he galloped up to the regiment in high wrath and objurgated it in terms of extreme potency. But each volley of his invective was drowned by repeated shouts of “Three cheers for the Commander-in-Chief, boys!” until, finding that the men were determined not to give him a hearing, the sternness of the commander gradually relaxed and the veteran turned away with a laugh. He might have made his voice heard over the cheery clamour of the Irishmen, hut that a few minutes before he had been hit in the stomach by a spent bullet, happily with merely the momentary inconvenience of loss of breath.

The village of Khoodagunj when attacked by the Ninety-Third and Fifty-Third was carried with little opposition, the enemy abandoning their guns which had been posted in and about the place and retiring with the remainder of their artillery in good order along the road to Futtehghur. But they had yet to experience the fierce mercies of Hope Grant and his horsemen. Making a detour to the left, that fine cavalry leader rode parallel with the rebels’ line of retreat, screened from their sight by groves and tall crops. Then, wheeling suddenly to his right, he crashed in on the flank of the insurgent force moving on a narrow front along the high road. Taken utterly by surprise, the mutineers fled panic-stricken before this terrible onslaught. Hope Grant’s cavalry, committing ruthless havoc with lance and sabre, maintained the pursuit for miles, capturing guns, ammunition waggons and material of all descriptions; and so demoralised was the foe that he never halted in his camp at Futtehghur, hut rushed across the floating bridge into Bohilcund. The return of Grant’s troopers to camp in the evening was described by Alison’s vivid pen as “a stirring scene of war.“ The Ninth Lancers came first, with three standards they had taken waving at their head; the wild-looking Sikh cavalry rode in their rear. As they passed Sir Colin, he took off his hat to them and said some words of soldierly praise. The Lancers waved their lances in the air and cheered; the Sikhs took up the cry, shaking their sabres over their heads; the men carrying the standards spread them to the wind. The Highland Brigade encamped close by, ran down and cheered the victorious cavalry, waving their bonnets in the air. It was a beautiful sight, and recalled the old days of chivalry. When Sir Colin rode back to camp through the tents of the Highland Brigade, the cheering and enthusiasm of the men exceeded anything I had ever seen.”

Hitherto Sir Colin Campbell had been carrying on the plan of campaign which he had formulated without interference on the part of the Governor-General. If he had continued to have a free hand, no doubt he would have followed up the clearance of the Doab by the immediate invasion of Rohilcund and the destruction of the rebel power at the important centre of Bareilly. Those objects he would have had ample time to accomplish before the setting in of the hot season. At its approach he would have distributed his force in quarters throughout the recovered provinces, and while restraining the Oude insurgents within the borders of their own territory, he would have employed the summer in the restoration of our authority in our old provinces. With the advent of the autumn cool weather he would have concerted a great concentric movement on Lucknow, driving the Oude rebels from the circumference of that territory into the heart of it, there to be hemmed in and finally crushed. His scheme was based alike on strict military and hygienic principles, avoiding at once a harassing guerilla warfare and the depletion of his invaluable European army in a hot weather campaign. The project thus outlined furnishes in itself the fullest testimony to the scope and accuracy of Sir Colin Campbell's strategic coup d’ceil.

But he was now no longer free to conduct military operations in accordance with his soldierly sense of the fitness of things. Political considerations intervened, and Lord Canning was strongly in favour of proceeding to the reduction of Lucknow and the subjugation of Oude in advance of any other enterprise. Sir Colin’s views, on the other hand, were in favour of the course briefly summarised in the preceding paragraph; but he fully realised that the decision of the Government was paramount as regarded the future course of the campaign. A long correspondence ensued on the subject between Lord Canning and Sir Colin, the terms of which illustrate the cordial relations existing between the head of the Government and his military subordinate. Some short extracts from this correspondence will serve to indicate its character. Lord Canning took the initiative. In his letter of December 20 th, 1857, he writes: “So long as Oude is not dealt with, there will be no real quiet on this side of India. Every sepoy who has not already mutinied will have a standing temptation to do so, and every native chief will grow to think less and less of our power. ... I am therefore strongly in favour of taking Oude in hand after Futtehghur, Mynpooree, etc., and when the Great Trunk Road communication shall have been made safe.” Sir Colin forwarded to his lordship a memorandum in which it was pointed out that twenty thousand men were necessary for the reduction of Lucknow, and thirty thousand for the complete subjugation of the Oude province. “It is,” in the words of the memorandum, “for the Government to decide whether it be possible, with regard to the circumstances of the Presidency, to effect the necessary concentration of troops for this purpose.” It was further pointed out that, “If through exposure during the hot weather of 1858, the strength of the British forces in India be seriously reduced—viz. by one-third, and less than that number could not be reckoned on were the campaign to be prolonged throughout the year—it will not be in the power of the Government at home to replace them.” In his reply to Sir Colin’s memorandum Lord Canning was willing to limit his demand to the capture and holding of Lucknow, without attempting more for the present. “Paradoxical as it may appear,” wrote his lordship, “I think it of more importance to establish our power in the centre and capital of Oude, which has scarcely been two years in our hands, than to recover our older possessions. Every eye is now upon Lucknow, as it lately was upon Delhi. I grant that, as with Delhi so with Lucknow, we may find ourselves disappointed of a very wide-spread and immediate effect from its capture. Still I hold that the active mischief which will result from lea-sung it untaken will be incalculable and most dangerous—just as a retirement from Delhi would have been, and scarcely less in degree.” Sir Colin replied temperately hut firmly, maintaining his standpoint so far as true military principles were concerned. “After much thought,” he wrote, “it appeal's to me advisable to follow up the movement now made by this force by an advance into and occupation of Rohilcund, to root out the leaders of the large gatherings of insurgents which we know to exist there, and to establish authority as is now being effectually done in the Doab. It seems to me that if we halt in this course to divert the only force at our command to another object, we run no slight risk of seeing the results of our late labours wasted, and of an autumn, perhaps a summer, campaign on the present ground to rescue the garrisons left in Futtehghur and Mynpooree. I come therefore to the conclusion that Oude and Lucknow ought to wait till the autumn of 1858.” The Governor-General naturally had the last word, and his decision was for the earlier operations against Lucknow. “I am obliged,” he wrote, “to say that I hold those operations should be directed against Lucknow at no long interval. I believe it to be impossible to foresee the consequences of leaving that city unsubdued.” The tone of the correspondence, though expressing divergent convictions, may he held up as a pattern of the temper in which the interchange of opinions between the civil and military chiefs of a great Government should be carried on.

Sir Colin lost no time in giving loyal effect to the views of the Governor-General by pressing om the preparations for the reduction of Lucknow. An inevitable pause in the active operations now occurred while the siege-train at Agra was being equipped, while reinforcements and Peel’s 68-pounders were being brought up from Allahabad to Cawnpore, and while the needful amount of ammunition, provisions, and carriage, and the numerous requirements of the artillery and engineer parks were being concentrated in the same dep6t. The soldiers meanwhile were in expectation of an immediate forward movement, and they wondered exceedingly at the incomprehensible delay which their Chief seemed to be maintaining. Keeping his own counsel, the Commander-in-Chief awaited the development of his plans, wholly indifferent to the abuse of the Indian press. Pending the moment for renewed action he took post at Futtehghur, where ho could cover from above the concentration of his resources at Cawnpore, and at once dominate the reconquered territory and keep in check the enemy in the regions still unsubdued. Futtehghur was an excellent strategic centre whence troops could promptly be pushed out to points threatened by insurgents from Oude, Rohilcund, or the trans-Jumna territory, while it covered the long-distance transport of the siege-train from Agra to Cawnpore. From Futtehghur movable columns were from time to time sent out to scour the surrounding country and reduce the still insurgent villages. Sir Colin for weeks deceived the Rohilcund mutineers as to his intentions, and for some ten or twelve days they were kept in position on the Ramgunga watching Walpole, whose force they supposed to be the advanced guard of Campbell’s army of invasion. When at length, losing patience, some five thousand of them crossed into the Doab some miles above Futtehghur, Hope made matters extremely unpleasant for them. Ho overwhelmed them with gun-fire, crashed in upon them with cavalry; and although they fought desperately, four of their guns were taken, their camp was captured, and they were pursued hot-foot for several miles.

Before quitting the Doab Sir Colin assigned a brigade under Colonel Seaton to the task of holding several main positions in that territory, to be relieved presently in some degree by a force from the Punjaub which was being organised at Boorkee for the purpose of invading Bohilcund from the north-west. The siege-train was now well forward on its way to Cawnpore; the secret which Sir Colin had rigidly kept for three weeks, was a secret no longer: and on February 1st he left Futtehghur with his cavalry and horse artillery, and making forced marches reached Cawnpore on the 4th. A few days later he made a short visit to Allahabad for an interview with Lord Canning, who had arrived there. By the middle of February the greater part of the army destined for the operation against Lucknow was in ichebn along the road from the Canges to the Alumbagh, covering the advance of the vast military stores and supplies which were constantly being brought up. Sir Colin anticipated that he should he ready to begin operations about the 18th of February with his own army of ten thousand men. But the Nepaulese force of some nine thousand men with twenty-four guns under Jung Bahadoor, which had been on the frontier of Oude since the beginning of January and had subsequently done a good deal of sharp fighting in the eastern part of that province, was expected to prove an important reinforcement to Sir Colin’s army. The gallant Franks was fighting his way from south-eastern Oude with some three thousand mea The twelve thousand additional troops which Sir Colin might look forward to obtain from those sources would be extremely valuable, bringing up his total strength to twenty-two thousand men.

But neither body could reach Lucknow at the earliest before the 27th. Sir Colin left the decision to the Governor-General, whether he should proceed at once, which he was quite ready to do holding himself perfectly able to reduce Lucknow with the force now at his hand; or whether he should delay operations until Franks and the Nepaulese should arrive. Lord Canning promptly replied, “I wish,” he wrote, “that the delay could have been avoided, but I am sure that we ought to wait for Jung Bahadoor, who would be driven wild to find himself deprived of a share in the work.”

After some tentative efforts the Lucknow mutineers on the 21st made a serious attempt on both flanks of Outram’s position behind the Alumbagh. Assailed by artillery and cavalry they accepted a defeat after sustaining heavy loss. They came at him again on the 25th, when they fought under the eyes of the Begum and her minister. Between twenty and thirty thousand came into the field. But Outram handled these masses so roughly that they gave way, and their retreat became a headlong rout when British cavalry attacked them on both flanks. Outram’s loss was trivial; the enemy suffered heavily.

Towards the end of January the convoy of ladies from Agra had passed safely through Cawnpore on their way down country, and a month later Walpole rejoined the army after having given the Agra convoy escort to Allahabad. The whole siege-train by this time had come up; the engineer park, the commissariat supplies, the countless legions of camp-followers. The dense battalions, the glittering squadrons, the well-horsed batteries had traversed the bridges across the Ganges, and were faring over the sandy plains of Oude, every man’s face set towards Lucknow. It was a great convergence. Such a force India had never before seen. Under the Commander-in-Chief were arrayed seventeen battalions of infantry, fifteen of which were British, twenty-eight squadrons of cavalry, including four English regiments, fifty-four light and eighty heavy guns and mortars; while from the south, right across Oude, Franks with three British and six Ghoorka battalions with twenty guns was pressing on strenuously, and from the southeast Jung Bahadoor with nine thousand men and twenty-four guns was marching on the common goal, to join the strange miscellaneous force whose rendezvous was before the rebel defences of the capital of Oude.

On February 27th Sir Colin Campbell established his temporary headquarters at Buntera, where the Second Division had already arrived. His force had now increased to eighteen thousand seven hundred men -with eighty heavy guns and mortars and fifty-four field-guns; and in addition he could reckon on Franks’ column and eventually on the Nepaulese contingent under Jung Bahadoor, when his total effective would amount to. about thirty-one thousand men and one hundred and sixty-four guns. To the command of the artillery was assigned Sir Archdale Wilson of Delhi fame: the brigade of engineers was confided to the able charge of Brigadier Robert Napier; and the cavalry division was placed under Brigadier-General Hope Grant. Of the three infantry divisions, the first was under Major-General Sir James Outram, the second under Brigadier-General Sir E. Lugard, the third under Brigadier-General Walpole. Sir Colin had come to the conclusion that it would be impossible to invest the city, the circumference of which was quite twenty miles, and he determined, therefore, to operate simultaneously upon both sides of the Goom-tee. By so doing he would he able to enfilade with his artillery-fire the enemy’s triple line of works, and thus weaken the resistance to his advance on the line of the canal and the approaches to the Kaiserbagh, which the rebels regarded as their citadel. It was covered by three successive lines of defence, of which the outer conformed to the line of the canal, the second circled round the Mess House and the Mo tee Mahal, and the inner one was the principal rampart of the Kaiserbagh itself. Those lines were flanked by numerous bastions, and rested at one end on the Goomtee, at the other on the massive buildings of the Huzrut Gunj, all of which were strongly fortified and flanked the street in every direction. The artillery of the defence was believed to consist of about one hundred and thirty guns. Apart from the normal population of Lucknow, which was reckoned about two hundred and eighty thousand, a turbulent and bitterly hostile community, the rebel garrison was estimated to amount to one hundred thousand fighting men, consisting of mutineers of the sepoy army, the Oude force, irregular regiments, and the levies of disaffected chiefs.

On March 2nd the Commander-in-Chief, with Lugard’s division, a cavalry division, four heavy guns and three troops of horse-artillery, moved forward to the Dil-koosha by way of the Alumbagh and the fort of Jellalabad, sweeping aside as he marched some trivial opposition. When all the forces had come up, his camp in rear of the Dilkoosha extended to Bibiapore and the Goomtee on the right, to the left as far as the Alumbagh. Franks arrived on the 5th and his column became the Fourth Infantry Division. The position was strongly garnished with heavy guns on the. eclgo of the Dilkoosha plateau to keep down the fire from the canal front and the Martiniere, and with others down on the river side on the outer flank of the Dilkoosha park to enfilade the Martiniere and command the left bank of the Goomtee.

For the important duty of operating on the left bank the Chief had selected Sir James Outram, who for the last three months had been gallantly holding the Alumbagh against overwhelming odds. While he was receiving his instructions from the Commander in Chief, two cask-bridges were being thrown across the Goomtee near Bibiapore. As by a mistake they were constructed within range of the fire from the Martiniere, Outram was ordered to cross with his division before dawn of the 6th. Hope Grant, who was Outram’s second in command and had charge of the passage of the river, records that, “Sir Colin, being anxious to get the division across before the enemy could discover our position and open upon us, rode down to the river side, and pitched into everybody most handsomely, I catching the principal share. But this,” ho frankly says, “had a good effect and hastened the passage materially —everything was got over in safety just as daylight appeared.” Sir Colin understood the art of “pitching in” better than most people; he did not frequently resort to it, but the impression it created was immediate and stirring.

Outram took out a very fine force consisting of the Third Infantry Division, the Bays, and the Ninth Lancers with a body of Punjaub horse, five field-batteries, and an engineer detachment When about to camp across the Fyzabad road he was threatened by a body of rebels, who were speedily driven back into Lucknow by the field-guns and artillery. In this skirmish fell a gallant officer, Major Percy Smith of the Bays. During the night of the 8th, under instructions from headquarters, Outram’s people were engaged in preparing batteries for twenty-two heavy guns which Sir Colin had sent across for the purpose of bombarding the Chukur Kotee, the key of the enemy’s position on the left bank. The batteries opened at daybreak of the 9th and in a few hours Outram’s ardent infantry had carried the Chukur' Kotee, whereby the enemy’s outer line of entrenchments on the right bank was turned and taken in reverse, and had reached and occupied the enclosed position of the Badshahbagh. Outram promptly moved to the village of Jugrowlee on his extreme left a heavy battery whose fire enfiladed the enemy’s outer line on the canal.

Meanwhile the Commander-in-Chief was perfecting his dispositions. From noon until 2 p.m. of the same day Peel’s bluejackets were pouring shot, shell, and shrapnel into the Martini&re, whose fire was replied to occasionally by a battery at the comer of that building, and by a heavy but wild musketry-fire a bullet from which wounded in the thigh the gallant Peel, who later, to the grief of the whole army, died of smallpox when being carried down to Calcutta on his way home. At two o’clock the order came for Lugard’s division to advance, and the Forty-Second and Ninety-Third swept down the slope abreast, clearing off the enemy from the earthworks, trenches and rifle-pits in front of the Martiniere. The rebels abandoned the place in panic and fell back hurriedly upon their first line of works whence they opened a sharp fire. Outranks artillery at Jugrowlee had cleared the rebels from their position at the junction of the canal with the Goomtee, but this circumstance had not been noticed by Lugard’s people. Thereupon Lieutenant Butler of the First Bengal Fusiliers swam the Goomtee from the left bank, mounted the parapet of the abandoned work, and under a heavy fire signalled to the Highlanders, who along with Wilde’s Sikhs speedily relieved the daring Fusilier, occupied the position, and swept along the line of rebel defences till they reached the vicinity of Banks’ house where they remained for the night. Butler, having done his gallant part, swam back to his own side, and in course of time worthily received the Victoria Cross. The outer line of the rebel defences having been occupied in force by his troops, the first instalment of Sir Colin’s plan had been successfully accomplished; and this, too, with little loss, owing to the effect of Outram’s enfilading fire from the left bank.

Sir Colin Campbell was unquestionably a deliberate man. This was not so in his original nature, which was quick and ardent; but in the course of his long military life he had seen much evil come of hurry. Fighting man as he was, there probably never was a greater economist of the lives of his soldiers. When absolute need was, he did not hesitate to avert failure at the cost of men’s lives, as he showed in the long and bloody fight under the walls of the Shah Nujeef; but whenever and wherever there was the possibility, his most earnest anxiety was to spare his men to the utmost of his endeavour. The chief object he had now in view was to attain the possession of Lucknow with no more loss to his force than the ordinary risk of such a service would justify. All his instructions, all his measures, conduced to this end. He was a man to whom a “big butcher’s hill” was an utter abomination. And thus it was that he moved with a systematic deliberation which rash and callous men have sneered at as slowness. There were men about him, for instance, who would have stormed Banks’ house on the evening of the 9th. Since no heavy guns were up, that enterprise would have cost dear in infantry-men. But the cool, shrewd, steadfast old Chief waited till next morning, when Lugard had his instructions to knock a breach with heavy guns in the high wall surrounding the house; which done, the infantry entered and at noon the building was captured and presently converted into a military post.

The preliminaries accomplished, there was no delay in the operations. Arrangements were at once made for prosecuting the advance on the Kaiserbagh. On the 10th Outram had placed his heavy guns in battery to play on that citadel and on the Mess House, on the former of which a battery of five mortars had already opened. Hope Grant with his cavalry scoured the ground between the Goomtee and the old cantonments. On the morning of the 11th some of the 68-pounders and heavy howitzers were brought up into position near Banks’ house. A gradual approach was being made towards the Begum’s palace, and the intervening gardens and suburbs were occupied by the troops designed for the assault—the Ninety-Third, Fourth Punjaub Rifles, and some Goorkhas, under the command of Adrian Hope. It was Sir Colin’s design to advance, successively through the courts and palaces on either side of the Huzrut Gunj street, and profiting by the cover thus afforded, take in reverse the enemy’s second and third line of works instead of sapping up to their front. During this progress on his part the rebels’ position would be simultaneously enfiladed from the left bank by Outram’s heavy cannon. About 4 p.m. the breach was pronounced practicable and the assault was promptly delivered. Sir Colin well termed it “the sternest struggle of the siege.” Captain M‘Donald of the Ninety-Third was shot down just after he had led his company through the breach in the outer rampart. About twenty paces further the advance was arrested by a ditch nearly eighteen feet wide and from twelve to fourteen deep. The stormers dashed into the ditch but they could not scale its further face. Lieutenant Wood, hoisted on the shoulders of a Ninety-Third grenadier, scrambled up claymore in hand. He was the first to enter the inner works of the Begum’s palace, and when the enemy saw him emerge from the ditch they fled to barricade the further accesses. Then Wood reached down and caught hold of the men’s rifles by the bends of the bayonets, so that with assistance from below all his people finally cleared the ditch. Barrier after barrier was then forced, and independent detachments headed by officers pushed on into the great inner square, where the mutineers in great strength were prepared to stand and fight. The numbers were very unequal but the Highlanders did not care to count heads. “The command,” says Forbes-Mitchell, “was—‘ Keep together and use the bayonet  ’ The struggle raged for some two hours from court to court and from room to room; the pipe-major of the Ninety-Third, John MacLeod, playing the pipes amid the strife as calmly as if he had been walking round the officers’ mess-tent at a regimental festival.” Within two hours from the signal for the assault over eight hundred and sixty mutineers lay dead within the inner court. The assailants were by this time broken up into small parties in a series of separate fights. A room whose door bad been partly broken in was found full of rebels armed to the teeth. The party of Highlanders watching the door stood prepared to shoot every man who attempted to escape, while two of their number went back for a few bags of gunpowder with slow matches fixed, to be lighted and heaved in among the mutineers. Forbes-Mitchell, himself a leading figure in the tragic scene, thus describes how the gallant Hodson met his fatal wound. “The men sent by me found Major Hodson, who did not wait for the powder hut came running up himself sabre in hand. ‘Where are the rebels?" he asked. I pointed to the door, and Hodson, shouting ‘ Come on ! ’ was about to rush in. I implored him not to do so, saying ‘It’s certain death, sir! wait for the powder.’ Hodson made a step forward, and I seized him by the shoulder to pull him out of the line of the doorway, when he fell back shot through the body. He gasped out a few words, but was immediately choked by blood.” Placed in a dooly he was sent back to the surgeons, but his wound was mortal. Forbes-Mitchell adds: “It will thus be seen that the assertion that Major Hodson was looting when he was killed, is untrue. No looting had been then commenced, not even by Jung Bahadoor’s Ghoorkas. Major Hodson lost his life by his own rashness; but to say that he was looting is a cruel slander on one of the bravest of Englishmen.”

The ignited bags of gunpowder drove the enemy out from their lair to be promptly bayoneted. One soldier, using butt and bayonet and shouting “Revenge for Hodson!”, killed more than half of them single-handed. In another doorway Lieutenant MacBean, Adjutant of the Ninety-Third, a soldier who rose from the ranks to die a Major-General, encountered eleven sepoys and killed them all with his claymore, one after the other. With the advent of night opposition for the most part ceased, although numbers of rebels were still in hiding in the dark rooms. The troops bivouacked in the courts of the palace under cover of strong guards. Horrible spectacles were presented with the daylight of the 12th. Hundreds of bodies lay about smouldering in the cotton clothing which had caught fire from the exploding bags of gunpowder, and the stench of burning flesh was sickening. During the morning the camp followers dragged the corpses into the deep ditch which had been found so difficult to cross on the previous day. The Begums palace was recognised to be the key to the enemy’s position, and our heavy guns were promptly advanced for the object of breaching the Imambara, which was the only building of magnitude intervening between the Begum’s palace and the Kaiserbagh.

From the early morning of the 11th Sir Colin had been at the front superintending the preparations for the assault of the Begum Kotee. But before that enterprise was ripe he was reluctantly summoned from the scene of action to receive a visit from Jung Bahadoor, who had just arrived at the Dilkoosha with the Nepaulese army after an interminable series of delays. In the midst of the formal durbar there occurred a striking scene. Captain Hope Johnstone, aide-de-camp to General Mansfield, covered with powder-smoke and the dust of battle, strode up to the Chief with the welcome tidings that the Begum Kotee had been taken. Thereupon Sir Colin, to whom ceremonial was detestable, seized the occasion to bring the durbar to a close, and after announcing the news to his guest hurried to the front. Next day the Nepaulese troops came up into position holding the line of the canal between Banks’ house and the Charbagh bridge, thus covering the left of the main attack. On the right the Shah Nujeef had been occupied on the evening of the 11th, on a parallel front with the position in the Begum Kotee.

By the afternoon of the 13th the engineers had driven a practicable way through the buildings intervening between the Begum Kotee and the Imambara. Heavy guns were brought into action close to the massive containing wall of the latter structure, and on the morning of the 14th the breach was reported practicable. The storming force consisted of Brasyer’s Sikhs and the Tenth Foot, with the Ninetieth in support After a short but sharp struggle the garrison fled in disorder, the Imambara was in possession of the stormers, and the second line of the enemy’s defence was thus turned. The assailants in the ardour of their success pursued the fugitives into the buildings intervening between the Imambara and the Kaiserbagh itself* Those occupied, the engineers proposed to suspend active operations for the day and to resort to the process of sap. Sir Colin himself, who had ridden through the fire in the Huzrut Gunj and had entered the Imambara amidst the cheers of the troops, was understood to favour that course. But the men in the front were not to be restrained, and under a fierce fire they forced their way into a courtyard communicating with the Kaiserbagh, driving the enemy before them. Reinforcements were sent for and came hurrying up. After a brief consultation Napier and Franks resolved to push on. Franks sent his men through Saadat AJi’s Mosque into the Kaiserbagh itself. Its courts, gardens and summer-houses were full of sepoys who from the roofs and battlements rained down a musketry-fire on the assailants. But the British troops fought their way into this chief citadel of the hostile position, and after a short interval of hard fighting the Kaiserbagh was in possession of Sir Colin’s valiant soldiers. Its fall took in reverse the third and last line of the enemy’s defence. By nightfall the palaces along the right side of the Goomtee, the Motee Mahal and the Chattee Munzil, were occupied; as also the nearer buildings of the Mess House and the Tara Kotee. With the capture of the Kaiserbagh and the other buildings within the third line of defence, Lucknow may be said to have fallen.

Mr. Russell in his Diary in India has given a vivid description of the scene in the Kaiserbagh immediately after the capture. “Imagine courts as large as the Temple Gardens, surrounded with ranges of palaces, with fresco paintings on the blind windows, and with green jalousies and Venetians closing the apertures which pierce the walls in double rows. In the great courtyard are statues, fountains, orange - groves, aqueducts, and kiosks with burnished domes of metal. Through these with loud shouts dart hither and thither European and native soldiers, firing at the windows, whence come occasionally dropping shots, or hisses a musket-hall. At every door there is an eager crowd, smashing the panels with the stocks of firelocks or bursting the locks by discharges of their weapons. Here and there the invaders have forced their way into the long corridors; and you hear the musketry rattling inside, the crash of glass, and the shouts and yells of the combatants, as little jets of smoke curl out of the closed lattices. Lying amid the orange-groves are dead and dying sepoys, and the white statues are reddened with blood. Leaning against a smiling Venus is a British soldier shot through the neck, gasping, and at every gasp bleeding to death. Officers are running to and fro after their men, persuading or threatening in vain. From the broken portals issue soldiers laden with loot — shawls, rich tapestry, gold and silver brocades, caskets of jewels, arms, splendid dresses. The men are wild with fury and lust of gold—literally drunk with plunder. Some come out with china vases or mirrors, dash them to pieces on the ground, and return to seek more valuable booty. Some are busy gouging out the precious stones from stems of pipes, from saddle-cloths, from hilts of swords, or from butts of pistols and firearms. Many swathe their bodies in stuffs crusted with precious metals and gems; others carry off useless lumber, brass pots, pictures, or vases of jade and of china.”

The success attained was magnificent; but, in Colonel Malleson’s words, it might, and ought to have been greater.

On the 11th Outram had pushed his advance on the left bank of the Goomtee up to the iron bridge, to sweep which he had established a battery. On the 12th and 13th he continued to occupy his positions commanding the bridge, but was restricted from crossing it by Sir Colin’s orders. On the 14th, the day of the capture of the Kaiserbagh, he applied for permission to cross the bridge, which was in the vicinity of the Residency. The presence of his division on the line of the enemy’s retreat could not but have produced important results in spreading panic and cutting off the fugitive rebels. Outram was informed in reply by the Chief of the Staff that he might cross the iron bridge, but with the proviso that he was not to do so if he thought he would lose a single man” This of course was equivalent to an absolute prohibition. The stipulation was utterly incomprehensible, and no explanation in regard to the subject was ever made. Mr. Russell makes it clear that the order emanated from Sir Colin himself. It is significant that his biographer General Shadwell ignores the matter altogether, a course which seems to savour of disingenuousness.

Already on the 14th the rebels had begun to recognise that the game was up, and on the 15th they were streaming out of Lucknow in thousands. Detachments of horse and foot were sent to cut off their retreat by the Sundeela and Seetapore roads, but it appeared that the fugitives had taken neither. Their chief exodus was by the stone bridge, whence some twenty thousand followed the Fyzabad road. On the 16th Outram with a brigade crossed the river and drove the rebels out of the old Residency position. Pushing onward and taking in reverse the iron bridge and the rebel batteries crossing it, he opened a heavy fire on the Muchee Bawun which was followed by its capture by the infantry, and the great Imambara later shared the same fate. Although by the 18th most of the mutineers had been expelled from Lucknow, it was found that a considerable body were threatening to make a stand in the Moosabagh, a vast building on the right bank of the Goomtee about four miles north-west of Lucknow. On the 19th Sir Colin ordered out a column under Outram composed of an infantry brigade and some artillery and cavalry, with instructions to make a direct attack on the Moosabagh while Hope Grant from the left bank of the Goomtee cannonaded it with his horse-artillery guns. A mixed force of all arms under the command of Brigadier Campbell was put in march with directions to intercept the retreat of the enemy when dislodged from the Moosabagh. The dislodgment occurred so soon as Outram’s guns opened; but the expected interception of the fugitives failed, and great masses of the rebels were allowed to escape with comparative impunity in a northwesterly direction.

With the capture of the Moosabagh and the expulsion from the city of the Moulvie of Fyzabad and his band of fanatics, there terminated a series of operations which had extended over a period of twenty days. Sir Colin’s plan of turning the enemy’s defensive works, and thus promptly expelling many thousands of armed men from formidable positions prepared with great labour and no little skill, had been accomplished with a total loss of eight hundred of all ranks exclusive of the Nepaulese casualties, which were reckoned at about three hundred.

To have achieved a success so great at a cost so small, was a result of which the most exacting commander might well have been proud.

In the course of the early operations against Lucknow Sir Colin had the gratification of receiving a letter from the Duke of Cambridge intimating to Sir Colin that he had recommended Her Majesty to confer on him the colonelcy of the Ninety-Third Highlanders. “I thought,” wrote His Royal Highness, “that this arrangement would be agreeable to yourself, and I know that it is the highest compliment that Her Majesty could pay to the Ninety-Third Highlanders to see their dear old Chief at their head.” By the same mail there reached the Commander-in-Chief a letter from the Queen written by her own hand. This lofty and touching letter is printed in full in Sir Theodore Martin’s Life of ihe Prince Consort, but it is impossible to refrain from quoting here one or two extracts. Her Majesty wrote :—“The Queen has had many proofs already of Sir Colin Campbell’s devotion to his Sovereign and his country, and he has now greatly added to that debt of gratitude which both owe him. But Sir Colin must bear one reproof from his Queen, and that is, that he exposes himself too much; his life is most precious, and she entreats that he will neither put himself where his noble spirit would urge him to be—foremost in danger, nor fatigue himself so as to injure his health. . . . That so many gallant and distinguished men, beginning with one -whose name will ever be remembered with pride, General Havelock, should have died and fallen, is a great grief to the Queen. ... To all European as well as native troops who have fought so nobly and so gallantly, and among whom the Queen is rejoiced to see the Ninety-Third Highlanders, the Queen wishes Sir Colin to convey the expression of her great admiration and gratitude.”

Sir Colin thus tersely replied:—“Sir Colin Campbell has received the Queen’s letter, which he will ever preserve as the greatest mark of honour it is in the power of Her Majesty to bestow. He will not fail to execute the most gracious commands of Her Majesty, and will convey to the army, and more particularly to the Ninety-Third regiment, the remembrance of the Queen.”

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus